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Monday. February 3rd. 2020

Just a short twenty-minute drive up the dirt road leading past the Very Large Array radio observatory, I was past the Plains of San Agustin, a flat-floored, 50-mile long once Pleistocene lake, and into the San Mateo mountains. Already signs of elk and more importantly, potential wolf activity was coming to view. A little way down the trail from my campsite were the skeletal remains of a consumed cow. In fact, lying within my campsite were two ominous detached deer legs, still with the fur attached.

The winds through the VLA today were incredible! They tore down from the forests and into the plains where the observatory is at. The dishes are dispersed along 13-miles of railroad tracks that branch out in separate directions to form a Y-shape.

The assembly has three configurations to listen deeply into space for radio waves, the longest in wavelengths and occurring within the deepest reaches of space. As I got out to take a picture, a gust of wind came upon me so fiercely that it pushed me to the side and violently threw open the truck door near to what I thought would be its breaking point. Inside the visitor's center, guests can pick up good information, and watch a short movie narrated by Helen Hunt. It also has a nice walking tour that takes you right beneath one of the gigantic 90’ wide dishes. But all of this was only a stopping point to what really was my intended destination: The Gila National Forest.

My aim for camping within these remote and isolated lands was to encounter wildlife I’ve not yet seen in my travels. Primarily, that of wolves. I didn’t have my hopes set too high, though, as I would imagine wolves to be extremely elusive and distant. Not ones to just pop their heads into a campsite and expose themselves out of curiosity.

There’s good tree cover at my campsite and hopefully, it will have some effect with the wind, but there’s nothing I can do about the cold front moving in. I saw that the nighttime temperatures would drop down into the teens for the next two days, but then bounce back up again by the weekend. Whether I go to the Gila Forest now or later, it would mean enduring two days of cold. From the weather reports, I wasn’t supposed to see any of the coming precipitation like I would have if I had stayed in Santa Fe, but I was in for a serious surprise!


Tuesday. February 4th. 2020

With the different temperatures from inside to outside the camper shell, I almost always get a light crusting of frost on the windows when the cool night air sets in. However, this morning I could actually see snow piling up along the edges of the windows. I knew the temps were going to below freezing, but I had specifically gone south with intentions on avoiding any snowfall!

I could only pull a weather report for a nearby city, which I suppose, was enough distance from where I was camped at to make a difference. Either way, I took it as a blessing as my goal for this excursion was to go off into Wolf Management Zones and hopefully encounter some wildlife. A fresh snowfall meant a blank canvas when looking for animal tracks.

Before leaving the Radio Observatory (VLA) I chatted with the gal working the visitors center there (Colette) and asked her about the nearby campsite. She wasn’t familiar with the one I had mentioned, but we started talking about roads and weather. And with each one that got mentioned, she started pulling up webpages and printing them out in full. I left with a stack of papers that really didn’t serve me all too well, but her one suggestion of taking a picture of the map on the wall did become my beacon of hope in a forested territory hundreds of miles deep and void of any human resources beyond simple cattle fencing.

Back at camp, from the scattered cow remains, I grabbed a big half of the mandible and packed it into the roof rack storage trunk. I can't help myself sometimes when it comes to bones and things of this sort. I had also harvested a bit of firewood from the area and made for myself a sizable bundle. The signs leading in stated it was a fuelwood collection site so a lot of the trees had already been felled for their better parts, but plenty of medium size pieces remained. Little did I know that all along the forest roads I would be following the trail of some truck or trailer that had been hauling said firewood and now and again would lose a couple of pieces. I would stop every so often and collect pieces of perfectly dried and split hardwood.

And then, the once dried and windswept plains turned into a bit of rolling hills with a light blanketing of snow from the adjacent mountain range. I saw a herd of elk or possibly mule deer. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance on these species as they are all new to me and I get so overwhelmed by it. I make my best assessment but am stuck between thoughts of anticipated hopes and amateur guess-work.

I had entered the wilderness with three-quarters of a tank of gas and most any direction I decided to travel in would be less than 100 miles to the nearest town or landmark. I figured I had enough resources to make it in and out, but as I started to travel from one forest road to another, I found myself having to re-assess the situation and factor in the math for if I would have to backtrack and take an alternate route because a route became too challenging.

I had followed my instincts well enough up until this point, soldiering on through the forest and not needing to make any detours, but the last route towards Mogollon looked like I would encounter a great deal of elevation. Evaluating the distance of possible switchback terrain, I decided I would take the next forest road that cuts off this particular corner of the Gila and angle me up towards Apache Creek.

The terrain had changed several times already, and as I rolled along the long dusty roads, snow would stop and start in different patches of land. After I'd seen the elk, I would continue on deep into the snow-covered forest. I climbed higher and higher and had been the only noticeable tracks within this white scene. I made it all the way up to Elk Mountain’s Peak of 9400’ feet and watched as the snow shot through the trees sideways with a force that garnered immediate respect.

Clearing the top of the peak, I was on the switchbacks taking me down the opposite side of the range and out towards Highway 12. The first of paved roads in over a hundred miles of travel. Highway 12 took me past Apache Creek, where I'd thought there'd be a shot at getting some gas, but all that appeared was one lone plow-truck and two snow-covered buildings telling me I'm not out of the woods yet.

I finally had intermittent cell service and could see there was another town, thirty miles down the road and so I went for it. I rolled into the quiet, wood-cabin style mountain town of Reserve and could have easily overlooked the four gas pumps had it not been 15mph through the quarter-mile-long street. I did notice that two of their Mexican cafes were bustling at this afternoon hour and now that I had the gas tank full, I might as well fill up the stomach! I carry plenty of food with me, but part of the joys of travel is getting to see and experience the small slices of life that exist in these off-the-beaten-path towns.

NEW MEXICO PART 2: San Lorenzo Canyon to Gila National Forest (VIDEO)

Ella’s had a right good breakfast menu and seeing as this was still the southwest, the all too familiar question of, “Red or Green,” was asked when I ordered huevos rancheros. The question, of course, is referring to the chili. It's still the same pepper, but green chilis are picked sooner than the red ones and they each have their own characteristics. I am still discovering all the many ways they can be used. The chilis are also grown in hot, medium and mild varieties for spice level.

I took my time here as they also had wifi and I could download a few more podcasts for the remainder of my route, which I was also planning out. As mentioned, I was deep within the heart of wolf country and wanted to keep exploring, but the weather had grown awful cold and this dry snow likes to stick around when it falls. It can easily pile up an additional foot onto the already laid down snow within the wilderness and makes for a hard time trying to pick out a campsite that isn't up past your knees. So, I figured I’d given a few good efforts at finding the wolves and would start to make my way out of the territory and continue on down south towards Silver City. I’d done a great deal of driving today already and wanted something close. The Cosmic Campground looked like a perfect slice of heaven.


but isn’t today the best day of my life?

All the experiences of the day, leading up to the single, unfathomable recognition that this lovely night beneath the stars, beside a campfire, enjoying a skillet cooked dinner is certainly the accumulation of a vast wealth of striving to find moments like now. I am sure the tenacity I have for life will continue to bring me to new experiences and unimagined horizons, but right now, I am content with where I am at. The hole in my heart is mending and I am giving myself the self-love it has asked for. Having awoken to literal, snow driven purity in absolute, god-intended wilderness, I’m amazed at what simple things bring to light the best parts of myself and the underlying connection I have to nature. Cold weather hadn’t kept me away from finding this moment. The unmapped, empty forest roads didn’t deter me from finding it either.

“Are you lost,” someone asked me as I flipped through the maps in the town’s general store. To which they answered themselves, “No, you must not be. You found this town.” I don’t think I could be lost, despite having mini-panic episodes driving anxiously through the seemingly endless forest roads. Deep inside the Gila Forest called forth a certainty from within. That I did, in fact, know where I was going. That I had anticipated these moments and thought to carry with me spare fuel, extra rations, restocked water before leaving civilization and so on and so forth. Not to mention I had my instincts. Which, without getting too quasi-scientific for this instance, has never lead me astray. Often, they’ve taken me to the most incredible places and as I’m flanked by three other happy camping motorists at the cosmic campgrounds, I thanked the stars, I thanked the heavens, I thanked the grounds and I thanked the unnameable beauty that had me wrapped up tightly in a big, much-needed embrace. And for the first time on this trip, despite knowing full well that I would leave this place soon, I was completely content with exactly where I was at.

Before I had lit the campfire that evening, I ventured out along one of the ridges to see if any twilight animals could be seen scurrying about. There were tracks all over the place of great diversity. I also started to find little shiny pieces of crystal laying in the red-brown desert dirt. On my way back to the plot of land I had seized for the night, I saw three, then a fourth hare bolt from the juniper brush and stop to listen for my movements before continuing on out of precaution. It was low light so not a chance of catching them on camera, let alone catching them in pursuit. They took off and down the hill into the next series of junipers. I remember their ears being so long they would trail way behind them as they hopped and ran. And then return to upright when they were alert and listening for predators. Which, judging by the tracks, I may not be out of wolf country yet! Likely coyotes, but deer were aplenty and cow too.

Wednesday. February 5th. 2020

By dawn, I was up again examining the grounds searching for tracks and more crystals. The birds were certainly out, but I was quickly becoming more fixated on the ground beneath me than I was on looking out ahead for any animal movement on the horizon. All around me, shining brightly from the red soil were crystals. I could only go about two minutes of walking before spotting a second, third, etc.. Eventually, I became keen on how the land was shaped and where the deposits were more likely to occur. This entire area was an ancient stream bed and carried within it were the exploded remains of super hot volcanic glass. I then started to discover actual geodes, with their micro-crystals displayed within the cavernous insides. I filled my pockets with at least twenty good scores and made my way back to the campsite.

All the vehicles that were here through the night had left, beyond my own. So I crawled into the back and lounged a bit with all the windows upon to this warm and tantalizing view. I got up not long after and made egg + salsa tacos upon Santa Fe’s great corn tortillas. As mentioned in the last story, my favorite roadside meal had become this dish! I tidied up the vehicle, washing the crystals I found in a bucket of water and set up the solar panels to recharge the battery bank as I worked. I took out all the bedding and trimmed up the memory foam beneath to lay a bit flatter and put extra padding up near the midsection to protect my hips. I tucked all the bedding back together and things were looking fresh as the day I had put it all together. Just like the urge to eat came, so too did the calling to explore. This time I’d take off towards a canyon wall I could see peeking out from behind one of the distant ridges. It was probably a solid mile, mile and a half to its face, but I’d have to cross at least four ridges to get there. Which meant a lot of up and down along loose, scrambled rocks.

What I couldn’t see in this assessment were the drop-offs along those smaller ridges leading out to what I’d seen. Even they had a bit of cliff-face which meant I had to pick and choose my lines to not land myself within a mini-canyon I could not easily climb out of. I was still helpless to the temptation to scan the ground for more crystals, but despite my heavy trudging, I was able to catch the movement of a single mule deer on the opposing ridge. I watched it stop and use the tall junipers to camouflage itself against the brown hillsides. If it weren’t for that stark white, worried face and those flittering ears, you’d never see it. But it doesn’t stand still long when it senses something. I was downwind from it, but my sounds surely echoed out and across to the opposite rocky ridge where it was standing and observing me from. It took off and continued up the hillside letting the tight coils within its legs come loose, hopping high into the air and disappearing over the ridge. I called her Ms. Boing Boing and for the rest of the day would be calling out, wondering where Ms. Boing Boing went. The tracks were too scattered and abundant to tell which were hers, but I surely kept myself noticed enough by the noises I made to never see her a second time.

I got way back, half a dozen ridge divides and finally started to see the curving line of the cliff wall that lined this prehistoric riverbed. The stream had gone dry and I climbed my way down into it to walk amongst its ancient geological history.

The geological history of New Mexico is one riddled with landmark changes from the first volcanoes and mountains making their mark on the landscape during the Paleozoic (Old) periods of time. 1.35 billion years ago, they were eroded down and the process was repeated over and again until 570 million years ago the now flat, featureless basin gave rise to a great sweeping sea that invaded the landscape. Successive layers of marine deposits were made, creating a rich, limestone barrier reef that stretched out across most of the state. Late in this period, an ancient version of the Rockies started to rise up, segmenting the sea and causing them to dry up.

Then begins the Mesozoic (Middle) period. The sea continues to dry, winds sweep in sands creating the colorful red and pink cliffs and dinosaurs began to roam. An asteroid strikes some 1500 miles away from here in the Yucatán and all but their petrified remains are left. But not all growth was halted, the Rockies continued yet another progression upward. The Earth continued to grow colder and colder causing most all of the plants and animals to die off and at the end of this period, the North America plate breaks free from Europe (foreshadowing??), drifts westward and magma welled upward in this fault creating the mid-Atlantic Ridge.

A series of faults strike out across the new continent and the steep-walled cliffs of the Rio Grande and the step-plateau mesas of the four corner region are formed. Thus begins the Cenozoic (Current) period and new animals began to emerge. Pre-historic ungulates existed here, long before their domestic counterparts were brought over. Volcanic eruptions and fault activity continued to pull and stretch the landscape creating tilt ranges in the Colorado Plateau and also within the four corners. The Rio Grande was born from the conjoined flow of all the neighboring rivers and streams and traveled from Colorado all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. (Source: Roadside Geology of New Mexico. Halka Chronic. Mountain Press PC, 1987)

The steep wall of cemented tertiary rock I saw lining this stream bed is called a conglomerate. It towers over the now, dried-up gulches and has soft, crumbled sand down at its basin. The conglomerate looks man-made with large, eroded stones cast into it. The climb towards this gulley had been tough, and the terrain was unforgiving for stability and traction control, but now within its soft, easy to traverse floor, I was enjoying the warmth and cool patches of shade as it twisted and turned.

The walk along the hot, sunny stream bed was thrilling. I followed it aways down and came to the most magnificent cottonwood tree I’ve ever seen. Its smooth, bare arms were bigger than most tree trunks and it stood high and wide, glowing a magnificent pale gray in the winter sun. Behind it was the rushing sounds of an actual river! Oh, it too was a magnificent site with its quickly flowing waters that winded into sight and disappeared again around a bend. The birds were coming and going with a delight that signaled this was truly a special site for all. The field behind the tree was a penned in cattle area and was flanked by a very tall, vertical rock cliff. Surely, despite spotting a potential cave within this wall, nobody would be so daring to climb this cliff, right? Well, you know that was not the case and up I went. Who knows, it could very well be the home to that elusive Boing Boing I’d seen earlier! I went up to the cave and it was pretty shallow, without much space for a deer, let alone a family of cliff dwellers, but it did have a nice tree growing upon a flat horizontal slab of rock. Instead of going back down the slope and doubling back through the gulch, I kept going along the 75º pitch that I could see would lead up and over the top of this rim. I climbed beneath yet another cattle fence (more on that later...) and was home free!

During the way out, I was sure to turn around and gaze at my route up until that point to be able to re-recognize the particular ridges I would see on my walk back. Well, after walking down to the stream, following it aways and climbing up the wall, I’d gotten myself a bit off track from the path I thought I'd return on. Rather than make a 90º turn to get back onto the original path, I figure I'd follow a similar and parallel route back. The only difference was, I'd be about 1000 yards beyond my original line and miss seeing the campsite. Hopefully, I wouldn't overshoot it as my primary landmark to head towards was a mountain way off in the distance and the direction of the setting sun to follow. With the amount of up and down ridges I must come to pass, not every hill was giving me a vantage of the mountain and I hoped I was remaining parallel to the line I wanted to take.

My legs were burning after that climb up to the cave and further up to the rim, so I stopped for a bit to look out across at the grand scene of the two-hundred-foot tall carved out river gulch behind the stream I’d just visited. It took a wide sweep out to the sides and then tapered down along either end. This area was referred to on the map as Brushy Canyon. I was using most all of the warm hours of the day, but past three o’clock, despite being the hottest hour, its the shortest-lived and also contrasted with a rapid decline in temperatures thereafter. So, I pulled myself together and said it’d just be a nice slow leisurely stroll back. No reason to fret. One foot in front of the other. One ridge after the next.

I climbed the divides one after the other and came to a point near to where I’d see Ms. Boing Boing. I actually found myself with better access to the ridge and despite still being a steep pitch, was only a gradual rise in elevation. I still had to keep my senses about me, as any tumble whatsoever spelled disaster with the likelihood that it would end up inside a patch of prickly pear cacti. I was more concerned about this over anything else. Falling and hitting my head: well that would be grim. Twisting an ankle: experienced that aplenty. Falling rocks: hopefully I could hear them coming. Rattlers: hopefully slower and below ground. Coyotes: unlikely to pick a fight with me. But I did carry a few large weapons plus a can of long-distance mace gel for any bears that I might become entangled with. But those seemingly endless patches of cactus sure looked like the baited and loaded traps waiting for an unfortunate human.

I managed to catch sight of one of the ridges I’d first looked back upon and I could see the mountains now too. After one more series of up, over and down I had made it to a dirt access road that looked familiar. I looked to my right and saw the campsite! I danced around celebrating the successful return. At this point, all I could think about was that good chili they had back at Ella’s and was too tired to put in the simple amount of work for even a bowl of rice. I get back to the campsite, put a note next to a few of my things left sitting next to the fire pit, dumped the three palm-sized crystals I’d found into the washing pot, still muddy from the previous batch of crystals I’d cleaned and drove myself back towards the small town of, Reserve.

The bean chili was so warm and delicious and the accompanying green chilis just made everything so much better. I don’t think I’m alone in that thought. Not in this southwest state, at least. I chatted with the girl who worked there, as she grew up in the town asking her what it was like and what kind of things went on around here. I asked a lot about the wildlife, trying to get some hints at where to be and how to position myself to find the animals I was seeking. No one talks about the wolves as its a taboo subject, but still I must ask to seek out the desired perspectives

Seeing as I loved this campsite so much, I thought I’d stay one more night. It had fairly good weather and as far as amenities go, a vault toilet and cell service is quite a highlight from what I’m used to. Digging holes and being days from a GPS signal is part of the adventure, but it's nice to have a little of both now and again. When I got back to the site, there were two camping vehicles at the initial spots along the road, but no one was back in the actual parts of the campgrounds where I was at. None of the things around the fire pit had been disturbed, but when I fetched the stones from the muddy pot of water, the last and most precious crystal I’d found was not there! I couldn’t believe it. Who would go searching in a dirty brown pot of water for random objects? Lucky for them I didn’t need to wash any chili-stained underpants that day or they’d really be questioning their life decisions. Or perhaps, I just made the whole crystal thing up and I was finding things that were really not there. I did think I had seen some peculiar lights hovering in the sky that first night...

The warm food and day's multiple hikes had me reluctant to build and tend to yet another fire. So after dinner, I just pulled in to the freshly cozied shell for the night and got to work on desert dreams. By morning, I was in no hurry to leave and only had a short drive to go before reaching my next stop, Silver City. But first... a few thoughts on the hotly debated subject: Mexican Gray Wolves!


Brought to you by the Return to a Natural West

To me, so many things are wrong with this picture. A lot of personal bias is put into this subject, I’m aware, but lets first talk about who sponsors the kind of message you see here. It’s obvious this area’s primary focus is cattle ranching, and they are the reason behind billboards such as this. We know there is a financial incentive for its message, beyond just what feels right because it very clearly affects their industry.

But let’s dive deeper into that statement. Its concerns are supposedly centered on the well-being of a naturally preserved landscape. Are we really to believe that cattle, extensive fencing and irregular ponds are a part of that landscape? A domesticated and re-introduced species that tramples the ground disrupting natural aquifers? Cattle had roamed these lands naturally, but they went extinct with a lot of the other pre-ice age species. They were then reintroduced by Spanish explorers in the 15th century along with horses. So we only know of them in the last 500 years.

Canids, however, the dog-like family of species had also occurred here naturally and coexisting with these large prey animals, but they too had gone practically extinct by the 1970s. After being listed on the Endangered Species list in 1973 with just seven wolves remaining, a fifteen-year captive breeding program began before finally, in 1998, the first captive-bred wolf was put back into the wild. By 2018, due to radio-tracking collars and den litter counts, there were 131 known wolves in the wild, with a minimum of 32 different wolf packs existing. In that same year, 18 packs had pups reaching a total of 81 known births and 47 of those surviving to the year's end.

Through the efforts of cross-fostering the wolves from those bred in captivity to being hybridized (placed inside the dens of wild wolves), now thirty years later the wolves were back in existence. (Source: US Fish & Wildlife Service)

The decline of this species, however, was not a natural one like a glacial period ending shifting the ecosystems drastically and causing a widespread reduction in food sources. For those like the dire wolf, it absolutely did occur, but not for the gray wolf.

The elimination of gray wolves was a targetted campaign carried out by state, federal and privately sponsored forces. Due to a stated conflict with the wolves by private landowners and their investments in livestock, the government paid out bounties for hunted and killed wolves, beginning in the early colonial days. They then began putting out mandates that a certain amount of wolves be killed each year and by the 1800s an all-out war against the canids had begun.

When the bounty reached $1 in 1830, we had already decimated the beavers in the fur trade to practical extinction. 100,000 wolves were being killed each year through new and inventive methods like poisoning. Freshly killed horses would have their carcasses hacked open and cyanide or strychnine tablets were placed inside with hopes that a wolf would come along and consume the meat. Also taking it back for their young to eat. You can, of course, imagine the folly this presented as not only wolves consumed carrion. Strychnine is a terrible poison, btw. It causes prolonged seizures and then often death by asphyxiation. Not a swift death, by any means.

While in the continental US, wolves only ever accounted for 1-2% of livestock deaths, the story in Alaska was much different. Their impact on the Caribou populations resonated with a certain similarity to their plight in the lower states. In a span of 10 years, wolves could drop Caribou populations by almost 90%. However, its to be noted caribou, elk and deer are the primary food sources for wolves and contribute to the primary reason they are not as prone to go after cattle and sheep. Unless, of course, that is all that there is for food sources.

In the 1900s, even after surviving the absurdly grim trapping and pelt-trading days, we flew over their home ranges in planes and helicopters shooting at them with scoped rifles. In 1972, the US Congress passed the "Federal Airborne Hunting Act," making this tactic illegal, but the multiple century war was over. The wolf's cry could no longer be heard in the wild.

The American coyote, who was also a part of this targeted campaign, adapted to evolve with its changing environment. A truly cosmopolitan animal, the coyote resides in every state short of Hawaii. While their predecessors, the wolves, struggled with the decline of large, mammoth-life creatures in their diet, the coyotes began shrinking the size of their stomachs by altering food sources to include foraged items like fruits and berries. This mixed diet, also allowed them to roam without the need of a pack, but could also come together for group-kills. From the yips and howls heard at night, they could also determine local populations and alter their normal litter size of 5-6 pups to go into the extremes of 12-16 pups.

With every attempt the US government and private agencies through at the wolves and by proxy the coyotes due to their likeness in appearances, the coyote seemed to come back even stronger. When the wolves were down to their final thousand, the coyotes had hit peak numbers at a million.

I can respect and sympathize with both sides to this debate, but the question the billboard presents is, what’s natural? A wild animal that was deeply rooted in the local ecology, then intentionally eradicated to put in place a domesticated animal that is representative solely of the needs and desires of agriculture?

I feel the conversation evokes a similar correlation to that of the coal mining debate. I am appreciative of the old ways of life and like that it can be preserved to remain natural and untamed, but we must look at ourselves objectively from time to time and ask for what reasons are we doing certain things.

The limitless killing of wild animals in favor of feeding industry-backed desires clearly says we are putting ourselves ahead of nature. And we must not forget that it was first nature who created and controlled these things, putting into balance the state of usage and consumption we came to know and once operated within.

Well, I personally won't stand for messages like, no to wolves!

I’ll talk later to these ranchers and point-blank ask them why they won't tolerate wolves in their area. And when they relay to me the absolute horrors of seeing and hearing wolves tear apart and kill one of their calves, I’ll ask should we shoot and kill every mountain lion then as well? Trap and kill every bear, sear the hide of every last buffalo and poison the one thing that was keeping it all in check?

And when later, I hear the complaints of out of control elk populations competing for grasses in the area, I’ll remind them that it was the wolves that once hunted and regulated these elks. And they did so without the stalled and laborious processes of legislation, without the prejudice and lotteries of permitting and far better than any flat-footed white man could do in the months between September and December.

It sounds like we are still living in those times when settlers broke off from the areas in the East to steam our way up the Missouri River and into Canada to trap, kill and trade every single hide we could find. Sending their pelts back down the river by the ton. We came into the Southwest in search of a new conquest, gold, and in this search, we established ranching. Transforming someone's legacy from being that of luck or bust to a long-standing practice that still continues to his day.

My best experiences have come from being around farmers and ranchers because, for me, its the closest I can come to existing in a simpler and more old-fashioned way of life, but I won't accept the atrocities paid against nature to continue.

For me, it's purely an environmental issue. I respect ranchers, farmers and hunters alike because they are some of the most educated, compassionate, eco-minded people with their boots on the actual ground. But they don’t represent the whole and its a bigger issue than just them. The folks ordering steaks and fried chicken without ever insisting they ought to know where their food came from, are the same ones that likely haven’t ever visited a farm or ranch, let alone had a hand in the harvesting of their meal. Even us plant-eaters, most of us don’t have a hand in the harvesting and production of our food, let alone firm in the temptations to avoid mono-cropped farm products and that too is unacceptable. Soil depletion is as much a part of the problem as the devastation of our wild animal stocks. My aim is always to put myself second to nature and trust that it will steer me in the right direction. My hope is that people will once again share in that desire to connect with their food and that Gaia herself can be handed the keys once again to regulate and decide how it will function.

The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'what good is it?' If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part of it is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of eons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

Aldo Leopold


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